In one of those off-season gimmicks designed to drive web hits and generate message board traffic, ESPN's Stats and Information department devised a point system and ranked the top 50 college basketball programs of the last 50 years. Their number one program? Carolina.
UNC amassed 911 points, just ahead of second-place finisher UCLA. Those two were the only schools to break the 900-point barrier, followed by Kentucky, Duke, and Kansas. Admittedly the Heels are #1 with an asterisk, as the scoring system deducted points for NCAA sanctions, which cost the Bruins 13 points and the top spot.
According to ESPN.com:
Positives: In our scoring system, the Tar Heels have been a top-four program in each decade. They lead all teams in top-10 picks (22) and, as of this writing, have not lost any points due to vacated wins or NCAA sanctions. UNC has reached multiple Final Fours in each of the past five decades and made 13 straight trips to the Sweet 16 from 1981-93.
The overall consistency of the program has been its hallmark for a half-century, as Carolina has avoided the extended downturns that have befallen the other four top programs at some point during this time period.
ESPN.com also named its all-time starting five over the past 50 years:
50 in 50 starting five (1962-present)
G – Phil Ford (1974-78)
G – Michael Jordan (1981-84)
F – Antawn Jamison (1995-98)
F – James Worthy (1979-82)
F – Tyler Hansbrough (2005-09)
Top options off the bench
Sam Perkins (1980-84)
Charles Scott (1967-70)
Brad Daugherty (1982-86)
50 in 50 coach: Dean Smith (1961-97)
There's no doubt the top 5 programs of the past 50 years are the five named here, in some order, and UNC would pretty much be in the top 3 regardless of the criteria used. Still, some fodder for discussion with the start of basketball practice less than 8 weeks away.